Grim-faced, a recently captured bomber reacted in a totally unexpected manner when he met a convicted fellow conspirator for the first time in over a year. Muklis Yunos, 31, wept as he and Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, a self-confessed 'liaison officer' of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), clasped each other's handcuffed hands inside a heavily secured room at the Department of Justice in Manila. Al-Ghozi, 32, arrested last year, is now serving a 12-year sentence for illegal possession of 1.2 tonnes of explosives and two false passports. Yunos, a self-confessed demolitions expert of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had been on the run since December 31, 2001 when bombs exploded in Manila on board a train, a bus outside the international airport, a hotel and the United States Embassy, killing 19 people. Al-Ghozi readily confessed to sourcing the funds for the atrocities and said his accomplice was 'a member of the MILF' named Yunos. For months, authorities were undecided whether to believe Al-Ghozi's disclosures on Yunos. Eid Kabalu, spokesman for the MILF, which has waged a secessionist war for the past 25 years in an attempt to form an Islamic state, repeatedly denied they resorted to terrorism or that Yunos was a member. 'The only Yunos I know is dead now due to heart failure,' he had told the Sunday Morning Post. Last month, authorities intensified their search for the elusive Yunos, after he was spotted in Davao City in the south days before bombs exploded outside its international airport and wharf. Yunos was caught quite be accident on May 25 boarding a flight to Manila from the southern Philippine airport at Cagayan de Oro. Trying to conceal his identity, Yunos had wrapped his head in bandages, arousing the suspicion of airport security. Rebel-turned-mayor Muslimin Sema, who was at the Davao airport when the blast occurred, believed the man was 'obviously' concealing something. After his arrest, the military suddenly intensified operations against 'embedded terrorist cells' in the MILF. This was prompted by Yunos' confession that he was chief of a special operations group in the MILF Third Field Division. He claimed his division chief, Alim Pangalian Solaiman, made him and 11 other members carry out the bombings in Manila three years ago on orders of the MILF central committee chaired by Hashim Salamat. Weeks after his arrest, when the police presented him to the justice department, Yunos himself defiantly owed up to the blasts. Senior State Prosecutor Peter Ong quoted him as saying: 'When the bombs exploded, I wasn't there; but as I said, I was there in the planning.' Mr Ong said the emotional meeting between Yunos and Al-Ghozi clearly showed they knew each other. 'Their sworn statements pinpointing other persons who planned the bombing have been affirmed,' he said. After Yunos' arrest, the MILF's Kabalu changed his tune. He admitted that Murad, the group's deputy for military affairs, knew Yunos was a bomb expert trained in Afghanistan. But he insisted: 'It was already explained in 2001 by Brother Murad that Muklis Yunos is not an MILF but still they are forcing him on us ... they want to pin us down.' Last week the MILF's leader, Salamat, publicly denounced terrorism as a method and denied links to foreign terrorist groups. However, Muslim sources said Yunos had been spotted several times inside MILF camps. The revelations of Yunos and Al-Ghozi and those who know them are only now confirming the existence of a transnational old boys' network of mujahedeen across Asia, with the MILF playing a key role. Theirs is a network stretching across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Their bombings are inter-related. There is no formal membership. Links were established through shared experiences and bonds of friendship forged in the 1980s Afghan war, in Pakistan's training camps and in MILF bases in the jungles of Mindanao island. Participants shared the vision of carving out an independent state in Asia where Islam would be the law and way of life. Unknown to Manila, the MILF was part of this clandestine network for years. Its camps trained the likes of Al-Ghozi, who said he learned there how to speak the native language and handle weapons. Al-Ghozi said he joined Jemaah Islamiah while studying in Lahore, Pakistan. The group sent him first to Malaysia to report to local JI leader Faiz Abu Bakar Bafana, who sent him on as 'liaison officer' to Mindanao in 1996 'to study the different places and establish contacts'. Al-Ghozi became a facilitator for foreign freedom fighters to train in MILF's Camp Abubakar. Asian rebels conducted their own joint military training exercises way before the Philippines and the US started theirs. Indonesian bomber Suryadi Masud testified this month that 100 foreigners, including himself, had trained there. He is accused of bombing a McDonald's burger bar last year and has admitted knowing Al-Ghozi. What appeared to be unrelated bombing incidents from 2000 to the present are turning out to be a chilling cross-border conspiracy. On August 1, 2000, a car bomb in Jakarta injured 21 people, including the Philippine envoy, and killed two others. Abdul Jabar recently told a Jakarta court that he and Al-Ghozi did it to avenge Muslims killed by then president Joseph Estrada's all-out war against the MILF. Their fellow bomber, Amrozi, is now a prime suspect in last October's Bali bombings. Al-Ghozi confessed in a deposition this month that the car bomb was a Jemaah Islamiah attack led by operations chief Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali. Al-Ghozi confessed to setting off the car bomb. 'To my knowledge this was in revenge [for Estrada's war]', he wrote. Two months later in October 2000, Al-Ghozi asked Yazid Sufaat of Malaysia to buy four tonnes of ammonium nitrate. It was to have been used to bomb the US, Israeli, British and Australian embassies in Singapore but the plot was foiled. On his own, Sufaat also met Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq alHamzi who died the following year when the jet they hijacked rammed the Pentagon on September 11. And with Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of being the 20th hijacker in the September 11 attacks - which are blamed on the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden. Another Indonesian who figures prominently in several bombings is Hambali, who remains at large. Al-Ghozi and Yunos separately swore that Hambali co-financed the Manila bombings. Hambali, Philippine National Police chief Hermogenes Ebdane said this month, trained in Afghanistan where one of his 'classmates' was Yunos of the MILF. Because of this link, he said, intelligence officials from the US, Singapore and Australia have asked to interrogate Yunos. Indonesia wants to examine Yunos' possible role in bombing Catholic churches in 2000, he said. Local Muslim sources in contact with MILF members provided other pieces of the puzzle. They claimed that within the MILF was a faction that undertook bombings without the foreknowledge of Salamat or Murad, whose attempts to discipline this group had proved futile so far. They also alleged the MILF continued to receive funds from Indonesian groups in exchange for guerilla training, which was relocated to the Buliok Complex in Pikit, North Cotabato, after Camp Abubakar's capture. The Philippine military seized Buliok in February on the pretext it was harbouring 'criminal' elements. One of the sources quoted a MILF senior field commander as saying: 'Salamat can no longer make decisions without the blessings of his contacts abroad.' The commander did not know if his chief was getting orders from the Organisation of Islamic Conference or a foreign mujahedeen group. Salamat's denunciation of terrorism was a matter of survival. Despite such links, government negotiator Norberto Gonzales said Salamat and the 'hardcore Islamists' within the MILF had to be wooed to the negotiating table. 'If we don't talk but have them declared as terrorists, they will flee to al-Qaeda's open arms. Then we'll have worse fighting,' he said.